Top 16 Car-Selling Mistakes & How to Avoid Them

Top Car Selling Mistakes banner photo

If you’ve never sold a used car before, it’s easy to make one of these common car-selling mistakes. To avoid wasting your time, ending up out of pocket, or worse — encountering a scam — take a read through this list before listing or selling your car.

Not Knowing Your Car’s Value

Try to sell your car without knowing its retail value and you’ll either struggle to sell it — or get a lot less for it than you could have. And there’s always more you can do to make sure you get what your car is worth!

Luckily there are great used car valuation tools out there! You’ll tend to find two common values:

  • A cash value
  • A private party value, which is what you’d expect get for your vehicle if you sold it to a private buyer
Car's Value

Having Unrealistic Pricing Expectations

Pricing Expectations

You obviously want to get the most possible for your car, but setting a sale price far higher than the market valuation means that it may sit in your driveway for a lot longer than it needs to. You may end up wasting money on advertising and then eventually lowering the price anyways to get it sold.

You could possibly find a buyer who hasn’t done any research at all and doesn’t know the vehicle is overpriced, but those buyers are pretty rare nowadays. 

You will most likely end up paying for your advertising, maintenance, repairs, automobile insurance and other carrying expenses while the vehicle is overpriced and gets stale online.

Not Cleaning It

First impressions really do count.

Cleaning your car is a pretty quick and easy thing to do. But it can make all the difference to a buyer. When your car looks and smells clean, they know that’s one less job for them to do if they buy it.

It also reassures them that you, as an owner, have taken pride in your car. This suggests that you’ve looked after the mechanical elements of the vehicle too.

cleaning spray bottle cleaning car

Spending Too Much on Repairs

repairs stacked on top of each other with too much money spent

When it comes to pre-sale repairs, it’s a fine balance. Spending some money to repair small issues isn’t a bad idea. But you won’t always make your money back if you fork out for big repairs.

A better strategy? Repair items that could be considered safety concerns and then price your car realistically. Be honest with prospective buyers about the repairs they’ll need to complete when they buy it and share any invoices and estimates.

Accepting the First Offer

While you may have to simply accept the price offered to you by a dealership for a trade-in, in a private sale you have the opportunity to haggle and get more.

Some buyers will offer a low opening bid in the hopes of securing a counter-offer below the asking price. So don’t be afraid to turn them down or counter with an offer just slightly under the advertised price.

You’ll get more money for your car if you understand what the real market value is and you’re prepared to negotiate.

seller accepting the first offer given and handing over the keys

Being Dishonest About Your Car’s Condition

honest words written out

Honesty is the best policy when it comes to selling your car.

If a buyer finds out about a mechanical problem after a test drive or during a pre-purchase inspection, that’s lots of time wasted — theirs and yours.

Be upfront about any issues right from the beginning and you’ll build the necessary trust with your buyer.

Missing Out on Advertising

Another one of the mistakes to avoid when selling your car is not advertising your car in the right places.

Putting a sign in your car window and parking it at the end of your driveway isn’t all that effective in attracting a buyer.

But advertise your car online — where people all over the country can search for it — and you’re much more likely to find a buyer willing to pay a fair price.

advertisement digitized pulled up

Writing Poor Vehicle Descriptions

invisible car on wheels to signify no descriptions

One of the easiest car-selling mistakes to avoid is a poorly written or overly brief vehicle description.

When you advertise your car online, you need to give as much information about your car as possible. Also, try to think about the words people will use when searching for a car like yours. Include details like the color, make, model, year, and mileage in your title to appear in more searches. 

Make sure to list any special features and list the options that the car has. Items that you take for granted such as navigation, back up camera, bluetooth, blind spot assist, leather interior, sunroofs etc may be the difference between an interested buyer and not.

Post Poor Quality or a Lack of Photos

Switching from low-quality to high-quality photos of your car can increase ad views by 172%.

When you’re selling your car online, you need a range of quality photos to go with your advertisement. Take pictures of the exterior and interior of your car. Be sure to get close-ups of special features and any issues you talk about in your vehicle description.

Want to go the extra mile? Then photograph your car against a neutral background and in strong, natural light to get it really looking its best. The more photos the better – and don’t forget the engine bay and trunk.

Lack of photos lady shrug

Mishandling Paperwork

mishandling paperwork picture

Filling out all the required paperwork can be a boring and time-consuming part of selling your car but unfortunately, it’s absolutely mandatory.

Ownership of a vehicle isn’t officially transferred until your buyer has gone to their state’s DMV with all of the relevant paperwork — so it’s important that you don’t make any mistakes on the registration or title docs.

If there’s an outstanding loan on the vehicle, remember that you’ll need to include your lender in the paperwork process too.

Having Only Incomplete Maintenance Records

A car with complete service and maintenance records is generally worth more than one without. So keep on top of your vehicle’s maintenance schedule and gather all relevant documentation in advance of advertising your car.

Failing to Screen Inquiries

Don’t waste your time by arranging for each and every interested party to come see your car in person. Ask prospective buyers about how they plan to finance the purchase and how soon they plan to buy the car.

In doing so, you’ll weed out the time wasters and prospective buyers that may not have the ability to purchase your vehicle. 

Always discuss the price of the vehicle, the description and any vehicle needs before you make arrangements to show the vehicle to anyone in person.

screening inquiry's and leads

Meeting Up with Strangers

unknown caller representing stranger

While the majority of buyers will be upstanding citizens and Motobyo does perform an ID Verification check on all members, it’s always best to use caution. Never meet a potential buyer in a place that doesn’t feel safe and never meet at night. 

Here’s a pro tip: If a potential buyer asks to see the vehicle in person before purchasing and you’ve already gone over the screening question to pre-qualify this potential buyer: look up the address of your local Police department and give the buyer that address. 

You can bet that the area will be well lit, it will most likely be under video surveillance and there will probably be some Police cars around.

Mishandling the Test Drive

Ask to see proof of insurance before you let a prospective buyer get behind the wheel of your car. And never, under any circumstances, leave them alone with either your car or keys.

Giving Out Personal Info

While you’ll need to give out personal info and provide all relevant paperwork when you’ve actually agreed a sale, don’t give out any sensitive details until that point.

Avoid including your name or address in your advertisement and don’t include credit card receipts or numbers on maintenance history documents.

personal info signification

Getting Scammed on Payment

money surrounding scam

Again, most of the buyers you come across are good, honest people. But when it comes to a car sale, you can’t be too careful. Bear in mind that 1 in 10 adults in the US falls victim to fraud or a scam each year. 

A cash payment is the easiest way to ensure you don’t get scammed in person and an ACH is best for long distance transactions. Cashier’s checks are now easy to forge and not all escrow services are legit. If your buyer wants to use a payment service, insist that you pick the escrow service so you know you’re picking a genuine and reliable company.

How to Avoid These Car Selling Mistakes

At Motobyo, we make selling and buying a used car simple and safe. We want sellers to get the best possible price for their vehicle, while avoiding the all-too-common car-selling mistakes listed above.

That’s why, when you sell a car with Motobyo, you can count on all of the following.

Easy Valuation

Find out what your car is actually worth in seconds by entering your details into our vehicle valuation tool.

Private Party & Instant Cash Offers

Motobyo offers you two ways to sell your car: 1. You can get a cash offer online in seconds and choose to redeem that immediately at any of our conveniently located Buying Centers. 2. We’ll also provide you with a market driven Private Party value and the ability to post your vehicle for sale on our online marketplace to find a private buyer to pay more.

cash in shopping cart
man inspecting car

Pre-Sale Inspection

When you sell your car through Motobyo, we provide a complimentary, third-party, pre-sale inspection with most of our ad packages. You then get to showcase the inspection report on your vehicle listing, offering total transparency and reassurance to your potential buyers.

Comprehensive Vehicle Listing

We’ll prompt you to include all of the vehicle info that prospective car buyers care about. We also leave space for you to upload those high-quality photos you’ve taken of your car.

Access to Buyers Across the Country

By listing your car on the Motobyo website, you advertise your vehicle to verified private party buyers across the country, not just those walking past the end of your driveway. We expand your pool of buyers and enable you to sell your vehicle in a timely manner and for the right price.

Buyer Verification

With Motobyo, you never have to worry that your buyer is pretending to be someone else. We use the same online identity review software as AMEX and VRBO, so you can be confident that you’ll only be hearing from legitimate buyers.

verifying the individual buyer
title and registration license plate

Payment Protection

Our payment protection service ensures you don’t have to hand over your car until the buyer has transferred the necessary funds. The ultimate protection from scams and fraudulent payments.

Title & Registration Services

Leave the car sale paperwork to us! We can cross the t’s and dot the i’s to transfer the title and officially complete the sale.

Don’t make costly mistakes when selling your car! Sell with Motobyo. And start by getting your free car valuation here.


Should I Fix the Dent in My Car Before Selling?

Some buyers would walk away from a car with serious dents, damage or mechanical problems. These issues tend to affect a car’s general desirability, so get a quote for the repair work that needs to be done and — if it isn’t too costly — consider it an investment that you’ll get back when you sell your car for the best possible price.

Should I Detail My Car Before Selling?

Detailing your car ensures that it looks its absolute best when you advertise it to buyers. But it’s not always necessary, and it’s pretty expensive. So unless it’s really filthy, maybe you should skip the detail and just take it to a car wash for general light cleaning.

Should I Get a CARFAX Report When Selling My Car?

The short answer – Yes. Building confidence in your prospective buyers is always a good idea and providing a clean CARFAX report is a good place to start building that trust.

How Honest Should You Be When Selling a Car?

While it may be tempting to be economical with the truth when it comes to your car’s condition or history, this is a car-selling mistake you should definitely avoid. The truth often comes out — either via a history report, a pre-sale inspection, or during a test drive. So it’s best to be open and honest with prospective buyers from the start. This will save both parties time and headaches.